“Let the games begin.”
That’s the message from organizers of the 2018 version of Halloween in Wilton Manors, not the opening to the Olympics.
This year, “Game Night” is the theme of the 12th incarnation of “Wicked Manors.” More on that later.
Wicked Manors has evolved into one of, if not the largest, Halloween street party/festivals in South Florida. The event is always held on Halloween, no matter what day of the week it falls on. This time around, October 31 falls on a Wednesday.
Doug Cureton is Wicked Manor’s event chair and one of the original cofounders, along with Bobby Kyser.
He’s been the Wicked Manors event coordinator nine out of 12 times. He said the event was initially set up to help give Wilton Manors a name.
“We wanted people to come and see what our little city is about,” he said. “And it’s become one of the major fundraisers for the Pride Center so they can do all the great work they do.”
The event joined forces with the Pride Center at Equality Park from the get-go, Cureton said.
In addition to the Pride Center, partnerships include the city of Wilton Manors and its police force, Broward County and Fort Lauderdale law enforcement, and other support personnel.
“That’s how we provide the level of security we have. We also have major sponsors donating and helping to cut the costs. Hunters Nightclub is a major sponsor,” he said. (There are many other sponsors, too.)
The city of Wilton Manors has designated staff and has provided volunteers for the event. They try to waive permit fees when possible as well, Cureton said.
“They understand the benefit to the city. It’s been a nice collaborative effort,” he said.
Cureton is an educational consultant and has owned several small businesses in Wilton Manors, including a gelato shop and flower store.
“We got a group of fellow business owners together and created it. We wanted a major event to showcase the city and our businesses. Nobody was doing anything in Fort Lauderdale at the time, although Key West and Miami Beach had something,” he said.
Speaking of security
Security costs for large events like Wicked Manors have increased significantly over the years, especially after the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016.
Cureton said 12 years ago the main concern of event organizers was making sure everyone had a good time. The concerns now include security and other issues that come with large crowds – proper police, street barricades, emergency personnel, portable toilets, and post-event trash clean-up.
“Those costs used to be around $5,000 to $8,000,” Cureton said. “Security alone is now about $33,000.”
Some enhanced security was put in place for Pride events in Wilton Manors after the Pulse shooting and has continued. Cameras were installed and dedicated lanes for security vehicles were instituted, for example, said Cureton.
“[The Pulse shooting] has changed the face of this event,” Cureton said.
Over the years, Wicked Manors has taken on different iterations and themes.
“Hell on Heels” was the theme the first year. Cureton said he and his team were expecting about 1,000 people to show up that inaugural year. There were about 5,000 who came.
One year the theme was “Heroes and Icons.”
This year, the theme is Game Night, and between 25,000 and 30,000 people are expected, even on a Wednesday. “It’s up to 50,000 when Halloween lands on a weekend,” Cureton said.
Cureton said organizers take to the Internet earlier in the year to ask people for theme ideas and to scour other events around the country for the best ways to do promotion.
For example, when the TV series “American Horror Story” was buzzing, the theme was “Freak Show,” with many attendees wearing circus and freak-themed costumes.
Game Night was chosen for people to have fun with and be creative, said Cureton. “There are a lot of different ways to perceive it,” he said. “You could be a board game like ‘Clue,’ a game show host, video game character, or someone from ‘Game of Thrones.’”
He said the main purpose of the theme is to help attendees generate costume ideas. Organizers try not to duplicate themes.
Attendees can expect music, prizes and four costume contests. Special guests involved in the event include radio producer and host Miss Bryan (Ryan Carstensen), DJ Kimmy B and performer Misty Eyez.
While there isn’t a required admission to come to the event, Cureton and organizers are asking for a suggested $5 donation to help defer security costs. Cureton said he realizes many people don’t carry wallets while wearing costumes, so an advance donation can be made online as well.
For more information, to donate, sponsor or volunteer, go to WickedManors.org.